Preparing Myself for a Truck Driving Career

by TruckerMike

If you have read my previous blogs, you know that I'm getting ready to start my CDL-A Training. I've found a CDL truck driving school which I will be starting in about three weeks (which I will write about frequently) and my search for a good OTR company to get hired onto is ongoing. However, besides finding a good CDL school and trucking company, what else do I need to prepare myself for? Well, quite a bit....I think!

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I'm personally not going into this expecting it to just be another job. I think OTR truck driving is more of a lifestyle and hopefully one that I'll find rewarding. But I've come up with several questions about what lies ahead. As an example, I want to be sure I use technology to my advantage while out on the road.

What type of cell phone do I want? What provider should I use? What about some sort of wireless Internet for my laptop (air card)? Do I want satellite TV on the road? Should I keep my existing car with the high monthly payments, even though I'll only be home a couple days per month at most? I hear most truck drivers become overweight. What should I do to ensure I stay healthy? There are a ton of questions I'm coming up with and probably several more that I'll think of along the way. So, I'll fill you all in on what I've come up with so far on a select few of these questions. Keep in mind, everyone is different and everyone's life has different circumstances. I feel I'm in a pretty good position to enter truck driving as I'm single with no family to support, live with a friend which will be rent free once I go out on the road, have almost zero credit card debt, etc. Now, my bank account is sad (not much there), but you get the point. Many of you may have a family to support or have other expenses which could limit your funding, so take everything here with a grain of salt. And also realize that I'm not a truck driver yet. I haven't even started training! So don't take any of my statements as expert advice. In fact, if you disagree with me, post a comment and let me know! The last thing I want to do is give misinformation or mislead anyone. I'm simply stating my train of thought and my plans as somebody who is about to enter the truck driving industry.

It's been very difficult for me to decide on a cell phone and provider to go with. I currently have Nextel and am paying month-to-month as my contract is up. So I'm exploring which company I want to go with. Man, there's a lot to choose from! I feel a smartphone would be ideal so that I will have access to the Internet and email while out at truck stops and restaurants that have free WiFi. I'd also like a camera built into my phone for easy access while out traveling the country. This is something I'm still definitely exploring, but I think I'm going to go with the iPhone. Please feel free to comment if you think I'm making a mistake!

As for the service, from what I hear, Verizon is supposed to have the best coverage, followed by AT&T and T-Mobile. This is all hearsay, but that's what I've found in talking with truck drivers directly. No service will work everywhere and some will work better than others in specific areas of the country.

I have something to admit as well. My name is TruckerMike, and I'm addicted to the Internet....seriously. I know that I won't be able to get on and surf the web like I do now, but to me, having internet access while out on the road is a necessity.

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How about TV then? I hear about a growing number of truck drivers getting satellite TV for their trucks and it seems like a good option. This is definitely something I'm going to hold off on until I'm out on the road for a while. Other than watching sports, I don't really watch a ton of TV.

I've been having trouble deciding what to do with my car. My car payment is just over $400 / month and I still have 4.5 years until it's paid off. Car payments really suck. My Dad once told me, "never get emotionally attached to a car." Well, I have. I own a 2007 Mazda speed 3 GT. It's no muscle car, but it's a complete blast to drive and she's quick. I love that car. Do I sell it? If I do sell the car, I'll be lucky to break even on my loan. I don't want a piece of crap as a replacement, but was thinking I could at least cut my car payment in half. After getting really close to selling, I've decided to keep my car. If I save $200 / month, that's $2,400 per year. A decent chunk of change, but I feel that I can still actually afford the car. I should make about the same in my first year of trucking as I make now (assuming I make in the mid 30k range). I can afford the car now, so I should be able to afford it while I'm out on the road. Since I'll be putting very few miles on the car once I'm out on the road, it'll help my resale value, and I'll have something nice to drive when I'm home. I'm trying to be responsible about it, but after talking with my Dad who is in economics for a living, and weighing the pros and cons, I'll be keeping my car. Should I find I get into financial trouble once I'm truckin', my family has offered to help me sell it while I'm away. PHEW! I get to keep my baby for now! But it's something to think about. Truck drivers aren't home very often, so selling a car may be a good idea to help during those tough first couple months.

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As for my health, well, that's something I'll just have to deal with while I'm out there. It's definitely a concern of mine though. You see...I love to eat. And the foods I like aren't the healthiest in the world. I'm already slightly overweight, but I could really go either way at this point. Sitting in a truck may put me over the edge and just make me totally obese all together. My goal is to learn simple exercises I can do in the truck, park in far away parking spaces, help load / unload if I have the option, be conscious of what I'm eating, and just do little things to help improve my health. While researching, it appears truck drivers live 10 years less than the average American. With so many truckers smoking cigarettes, I'm sure this skews the numbers a little bit. After all, I sit in a chair all day at my current office job anyway. But it's definitely a concern of mine and something every new truck driver should be conscious of. I'll be sure to update my blog with any tips or tricks I have, but for now, I'm not too sure what I'll do on this front.

One thing I'll be changing for sure is my alcohol intake. I really like beer...a lot. I never drink and drive, so that's not a concern of mine (a DUI can all but destroy a career in trucking). But by the same token, when I get home from work these days, I like to have a couple beers. In truck driving, this is a horrible habit to keep. While I'm not a truck driver yet, it is my opinion that alcohol has absolutely no place in a truckers life while they are out on the road. It should just be a rule; when out on the road, whether "on-duty" or not, just stay away from the stuff. As soon as exceptions are made ("ok, one beer during my off -duty time wont hurt"), that's when the trouble can start. I'm taking a zero tolerance approach to alcohol and have already started to be conscious of that here at home. Once my CDL training starts, I will not be drinking any alcohol at all. Some sacrifices have to be made when going into a truck driving career, and I think when it comes to alcohol, it should be zero tolerance and enforced by yourself. It's a sacrifice I'm willing to make for this career. Is it a sacrifice you're willing to make? ...Just an opinion of mine. Again, take it with a grain of salt as I'm not even a trucker yet. But I would love knowing people I'm sharing the road with take it as seriously as I do.

Well, as you can see, my mind is running at a million miles a second. There are a lot of things to think about and even some sacrifices that need to be made. Those of you with a family have even more to think about. Actually, I think I probably have it easy compared to many of you.

Maybe I'm "new school" and will think differently once I'm out on the road, but I plan on using technology to my advantage while I'm out there. If any of you have any advice for me, please post a comment! But my main message is that I realize there are sacrifices that need to be made entering this career. It's best to be prepared as possible. So I'm preparing now. I think a big reason turn over is fairly high in trucking is because people don't prepare themselves for the lifestyle change associated with truck driving. Are you prepared?

My CDL training starts on January 12th, 2009. It's getting close and I'm crazy excited! I can't wait to quit my current sales job! Only a couple more weeks. I'll be posting about my experiences during training in detail. So stay tuned.

Until next time, drive safely!

TruckerMike

CDL:

Commercial Driver's License (CDL)

A CDL is required to drive any of the following vehicles:

  • Any combination of vehicles with a gross combined weight rating (GCWR) of 26,001 or more pounds, providing the gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of the vehicle being towed is in excess of 10,000 pounds.
  • Any single vehicle with a GVWR of 26,001 or more pounds, or any such vehicle towing another not in excess of 10,000 pounds.
  • Any vehicle, regardless of size, designed to transport 16 or more persons, including the driver.
  • Any vehicle required by federal regulations to be placarded while transporting hazardous materials.

OTR:

Over The Road

OTR driving normally means you'll be hauling freight to various customers throughout your company's hauling region. It often entails being gone from home for two to three weeks at a time.

Dm:

Dispatcher, Fleet Manager, Driver Manager

The primary person a driver communicates with at his/her company. A dispatcher can play many roles, depending on the company's structure. Dispatchers may assign freight, file requests for home time, relay messages between the driver and management, inform customer service of any delays, change appointment times, and report information to the load planners.

HOS:

Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.

DUI:

Driving Under the Influence

OWI:

Operating While Intoxicated

OOS:

When a violation by either a driver or company is confirmed, an out-of-service order removes either the driver or the vehicle from the roadway until the violation is corrected.

by Brett Aquila

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